How to Change Your Last Name Without the Court

By Heather Frances J.D.

Whatever your reasons for changing your last name, state laws offer several ways for you to do it. Often people want to change their names because of marriage or divorce, and states offer relatively simple name change procedures as part of these legal events. Otherwise, going to court specifically for a legal name change may be a good option, but you can change your name without a separate court process.

Marriage

In most cases, you can change your last name when you get married simply by noting your new name on the marriage license. Some states, such as New York, restrict the name you choose, requiring it to be either your spouse’s last name or a hyphenated version of both your last name and your spouse’s. Once your marriage license is registered with state authorities after your marriage, you can begin using your new name immediately. Your marriage certificate provides proof of your legal name change, allowing you to get a new driver’s license, Social Security card, passport and other identification.

Divorce

Changing your name at the time of your divorce typically does not require a separate court order as long as you simply want to resume using the name you used prior to the marriage. While this type of name change does involve a court order, it is not a separate process and does not require additional court hearings or paperwork. But some states, like California, do not allow you to use the divorce process to change your name to anything other than what it was immediately before you got married. To change your name during the divorce process, you must include your request for a name change in the divorce petition; the court will include the legal name change order in your divorce decree.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Change by Use

Many states allow residents to change their name by common law, also called change by usage. Under this method, you simply stop using your previous name and begin using a new name. You must use the new name consistently and for all purposes -- you cannot use both your previous name and the new name at the same time. Your ability to use this name change method depends on your state’s laws. Some states do not allow a change by usage if you have a criminal record or if you want to change your name for a fraudulent reason such as avoiding creditors.

Practical Considerations

While name change by usage does not typically require any paperwork, it may be wise to create an affidavit of name change -- a notarized written statement explaining your name change, so you have documentation to prove you legally changed your name. Many government agencies may not recognize your name change under the usage method, and changing your name with some offices may require additional documentation if you do not have a court order or marriage certificate proving the change. For example, the U.S. State Department allows you to change your name on your passport to your assumed name but only if you can provide at least three public records that show your date, place of birth and exclusive use of your assumed name for at least five years.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
How to Change a Name on a Texas Driver's License

References

Related articles

Legal Name Changes in Texas After a Divorce

If you changed your name when you married, you get to choose whether or not you want to change your name back when you divorce. Though this process is typically completed during the divorce, Texas also allows you to change your name outside the divorce process. Thus, if you don't change your name, but reconsider after your divorce and decide that you do want to change your name, you can follow the court process to change it.

How to Create a New Last Name When You Marry

Although you are not required to change your last name when you marry, you may do so if you wish. The most common way is to adopt your spouse's surname when you sign the marriage certificate but other procedures and choices are available as well. For example, if you changed your name from Brown to Brown-Smith after your first marriage, you could continue to use the same name after your marriage to John Green; revert to the last name of Brown; adopt the name Brown-Green or Green-Brown; or perhaps change both spouses' names to Breen if your state allows you to create a new last name.

Divorce Laws in Louisiana Regarding Name Changes

Although many spouses decide to change their names when getting married, Louisiana does not require anyone to do so. During the marriage, spouses are permitted to use their spouse's last name although their name is not technically changed. After getting a divorce, women do not need to follow the typical legal requirements for a name change, but can acquire confirmation from the court that indicates they are no longer using their ex-spouse's surname.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

The Law for Resuming Your Maiden Name in Ohio

In Ohio, you do not have to change your name when you marry, but if you do change it, the married name becomes your ...

Name Change Requirements in the State of Illinois

In Illinois, you can change your name when getting married or divorced, but you can also change your name for other ...

How to Use My Maiden Name Even Though I Legally Changed It to My Married Name

Whether you can use your maiden name when it is no longer your legal name depends on how you want to use it. In many ...

Easiest Way to Change Your Name

There are many reasons you might want to change your name. Whether your decision is for personal or business reasons, ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED